February 28: Story Challenge in 99-words

Written by Charli Mills

Charli Mills, a born buckaroo, makes literary art accessible at CarrotRanch.com. She writes about the veteran spouse experience and women forgotten to history.

February 28, 2022

Ah, the farm life. Not much downtime on a farm although the seasons dictate chores. You have to be a planner, a strategizer, a fiction writer to see how a farm frows from a single bell pepper seed. Farmers imagine futures the way novelists picture the perfect ending from word one.

With a healthy dose of trepidation, I took over Ghost House Farm for ten days while the resident farmers, my eldest and her partner, fled the snow to Costa Rica. My SIL had spent hours removing the snowpack between the garage, making it wide so the sides didn’t feel so claustrophobic. It lasted two days before the wind found a place to blow snow.

Did I say I looked forward to being a snowed-in farmer/writer for the week? That must have been before I had to shovel three-foot drifts, re-pank new snowshoe trails to the chicken coop, and cut “steps” in the drifts to get off of them. I found out that you can fall in snowshoes and that a 5-gallon water bucket with a lid can be a great device for regaining verticality.

The chickens have a cozy sauna repurposed into a sealed coop. Not even snow can get in. But it does require shoveling. Every outbuilding on the farm has its own shovel. The drift outside the bowl to the door protects it from blowing snow, but the drift built up high enough for me to need three steps. And they worked.

By the time I got back inside from the outside chores, another round of inside chores began. I’m to carefully monitor three flats of seedlings. In the dining room, an entire wall is shelved with grow lights and heat mats. My job is to monitor sprouts and moisture. I also water the potted herbs and house plants. I water the dogs and cat, feed and snuggle them, too.

This is a group effort. I’m staying at the farm but several others are lined up to carry the big water buckets and move bales and snow (on storm days, not windy ones). Everyone wants to take care of the goats. No one wants chicken chores. It’s interesting how quickly we all fell into a rhythm. Even the dogs.

My desk is set up on the dining room table near the woodstove. It’s a sunny spot with a south-facing window to my left. At night, it’s pitch black outside. It’s a great spot for writing. I’ve been inspired, bringing with me my vision and notes, and planful tools. I brought books and I have had a delicious time researching for an article I’m writing about a local 88-year-old woman.

Farming is like creative writing. Not only can we imagine future harvests from blank pages, but our work is multi-layered. At Ghost House farm, animal husbandry is like a character arc to a plot. You can farm without animals, just like you can write a book that is all plot and no character arc. It’s important to know what you want to farm or write. And everything you do — from cultivating soil to layering craft elements — has a big impact that requires your focus. Farmers and writers are creative problem-solvers.

This week, I’m inviting you to get into the farm life no matter the season, location, or farmers.

And, in case you were wondering…yes, I did.

February 28, 2022, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write about the farm life. Where is the farm and who are the farmers? What are they farming and why? How is the farm life? Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by March 5, 2022. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form. The Collection publishes on the Wednesday following the next Challenge. Rules & Guidelines.
  2. Carrot Ranch only accepts stories through the form below. Accepted stories will be published in a weekly collection. Writers retain all copyrights.
  3. Your blog or social media link will be included in your title when the Collection publishes.
  4. Please include your byline which is the name or persona you attribute to your writing.
  5. Please include the hashtag #99Word Stories when sharing either the Challenge or Collection posts in social media.

Submissions are now closed. Find our latest challenge to enter.

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  1. TanGental

    We know you’re brave milking Billy-Jean but how about the recipient of your tugging love. Did she comment?

    • Charli Mills

      Not sure if this qualifies as a comment but she did kick me.

      • TanGental

        I think it speaks volumes

    • Charli Mills

      It’s more work than I expected (says every new farmer/writer). But it does feel productive at the end of the day.

  2. robbiesinspiration

    I can imagine that looking after a snow-bound farm is a lot of hard work.

    • Charli Mills

      More than I anticipated, Robbie!

  3. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Good times!
    Where does Peggy’s milk go? Are the kids yogurt and cheese makers?
    Enjoy the rest of your time on the farm! May the wind stop blowing and the snow stop falling.

    • Colleen M. Chesebro

      I think having a goat and making yogurt would be wonderful! Their milk is milder tasting than cow’s milk, from what I’ve experienced. Good times for sure! <3

      • Charli Mills

        I’m all for cow’s milk, Colleen! 😉

    • Charli Mills

      Milk is gifted while the farmers are absent. When home, they make cheese. It was sorta sunny today!

  4. Colleen M. Chesebro

    What a grand adventure… that much snow, not so much. I’ve been monitoring your UP totals. Aren’t you over 200+ inches now? I’ll stay in my warmer part of the mitten where Chloe and Sophie, my writing muses, snuggle in their beds. I’ve got lots of planning going on over here. Enjoy your time. You deserve it. <3

    • Charli Mills

      I just checked and we are at 265.5″ of snow on the Keweenaw. Less in town (Hancock), definitely more “on the ridge” where the farm is located. May your writing muses keep you warm (your Mitten Kittens are adorable). <3

      • Colleen M. Chesebro

        ???? That much snow is snowmageddon for sure, Charli. I like East Lansing. ???? Our kitty girls are so sweet. ??

  5. Norah

    Farm life, I can imagine. Snowed-in farm life, not so much. I’d like to say that your post took me back to the first six years of my life when I lived on a farm, but that wouldn’t be true. I’ve never lived on a farm with snow and can’t even imagine it. I hope your young ones have enjoyed their break away – such a responsibility being entrusted to care for their farm. I hope you have also enjoyed your farm sojourn and found it a pleasant break in the routine. I’m looking forward to hearing more about it.

    • Charli Mills

      Farm life has its shared qualities around the world, Norah, and I think it resides in responsibility. It has been a different pace!

      • Norah

        I hope it’s been a good pace. 🙂

  6. Michael B. Fishman

    “Pank” = learn something new every day! And please say you washed your hands after the milking was over.

    • Charli Mills

      I think so… Yes, I did. And it only got worse from there. Next two days Peggy had a plugged duct and I had to bring out a tea kettle (and tea towel) to massage her udder. Then she got goat diarrhea and I had to bring out the kettle again, goat milk soap (ha, ha) and a hefty towel to wash her tail and rump. She got fussy about the milking, and now it’s my job to pick up her hind leg during milking. Michael, there’s lots of handwashing going on!

  7. Miss Judy

    Reminds me of my youth, growing up on an Upstaate NY farm and the winters with snow as deep as you describe. It was fun as a youth. I now feel for my father and how hard he worked.

    • Charli Mills

      It has an atmosphere of playfulness as a kid, but once we realize how big the responsibilities are, it’s daunting. But playfulness is still important, too. Even the chickens like to play. Wasn’t “Farmer Boy” by Laura Ingalls Wilder set in upstate New York?

      • Miss Judy

        Yes, the town, Malone, NY is in the very North near the Canadian border.

  8. Gary A Wilson

    Hi Charli.

    I decided to take a historical fiction slant on this prompt. It comes from the legacy local chicken ranching industry that Petaluma used to be famous for. These days, it’s much more like my story.

    I hope you enjoy it.

    • Charli Mills

      Hi Gary, yes, I enjoy historic angles! I didn’t realize Petaluma was a poultry town.

  9. Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

    I know what hard work it is but I’ve never had to contend with snow. Hope it all went well and animals and seedlings survived your stay (as I have no doubt they did.)

    • Charli Mills

      So far, everything is surviving, Irene. And we had some concerns (unwell goat and something circled the chicken coop). The seedlings look great!

  10. Jennie

    I love this, Charli! You had a very special time at Ghost House Farm.

  11. Hugh W. Roberts

    I used to love feeding the chickens at the local farm on my way to school. I used to ask them questions like if I’d got my Maths homework right. They never failed to answer.
    Glad you’re enjoying your stay at the farm, Charli.

  12. E.A. Colquitt

    This is so interesting! I volunteer outdoors when I can, but those activities are more about plants than animals… which is a good thing. I’d be too scared of getting kicked by the goat!

    I do like reading about creatures, though. It’s great to see you having a good time, Charli 🙂

  13. Norah

    Hi Charli,
    Recently Hugh published a post about the legal (copyright) implications of sharing images in reblogged posts. Some of us (including me) have been using your feature image in our posts to show the connection. Do you know if it is okay for us to do so, regarding copyright of the image, or would we be safer to not do so?

    • Charli Mills

      Hi Norah,
      A very good question. Carrot Ranch pays for Canva Pro which is an online design platform and media licensing service. I pay for a media stock license in my subscription and can legally share the photos I’ve used to create media (such as icons for Challenge and Collection posts). If another blogger reposts the challenge or links to it, the media is fair use. Hugh’s guest offers fair warning to know where images come from and what their copyright status is. The images at Carrot Ranch are under the Canva paid media licensing. It’s safe to use the CR images in connection to CR posts, events, and promotions.

      • Hugh W. Roberts

        Charli, thank you for responding to the question Norah asked you. Knowing that you are using Canva for the images you create on the 99-word flash fiction challenge is a big relief. Having been informed by two bloggers that they were fined for copyright infringement when they used images that were not free to use or share, has made me much more careful in what images I use on my blog posts.
        Thanks, again.

      • Norah

        Thank you, Charli. That’s good to know. I appreciate the time you took to explain. I’ll let Hugh know too. 🙂

      • Norah

        I see he already knows! ????

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